DNA sequencing firm teams with major HIT players

Illumina to work with IBM and Philips to improve DNA interpretation services.

Illumina, a major vendor of DNA sequencing services to enable clinicians and researchers to read and understand genetic variations, is teaming up with IBM and Philips in separate genomic research projects.

IBM will integrate its Watson for Genomics decision support product, based on technology from Quest Diagnostics, with Illumina’s solid tumor profiling panel that can present a set of variants across 170 different types of genes to aid in development of personalized treatment options for cancer patients.

This will speed a process that typically now takes about a week to complete. The challenge in genomic testing is the expertise required to provide interpretation services, says Rob Merkel, vice president of oncology and genomics at IBM Watson Health, and Watson can do the process in about five minutes.

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“Illumina will integrate our interpretations into its new 170-gene panel,” Merkel says. “When you sequence a tumor against healthy tissue, you can see variations between healthy tissue and the tumor by comparing the DNA side by side.”

To do this, Watson compares the DNA to create molecular profile analyses to identify aberrations causing the tumor, create biological pathways of the tumor and perform drug analyses, all to determine what medicines and/or clinical trials are best appropriate for the patient.

In its partnership with Philips, Illumina will integrate its DNA sequencing with Philips’ cloud-based genomics platform to support the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of genomics data during cancer research.

Both organizations are seeking U.S. healthcare systems to work with them in developing oncology precision medicine programs. Participating researchers will have access to advanced analytics, deep learning technologies and a range of reference materials.

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The goal is to find new ways to rapidly and accurately interpret genomic findings in the context of a patient’s condition, according to Philips.

“While cancer patients can have hundreds of gene variants in their tumors, only a small number may actually drive the individual’s specific cancer or may have actionable therapeutic implications for a particular patient. The patient’s history, related lab tests and cancer type are needed for a meaningful interpretation of the genomic data,” a Philips spokesman notes.

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